Vipava Valley: Slovenia’s beautiful hidden treasure

CNN  — 

It’s less than an hour’s drive from Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, yet the Vipava Valley hasn’t really registered on the tourist radar.

This lusciously fertile region that stretches west to the Italian border has a magical combination of exceptionally fine wine and food, dramatic karst landscapes and medieval castles towering over pretty villages.

It even has its own microclimate – a little taste of the Mediterranean wedged between limestone mountains. It’s a place made for outdoor adventures – on foot, on two wheels or on a paraglider floating above the valley.

Here are some of the unmissable sights of the Vipava Valley, for when it’s safe to visit.

Follow the Vipava Valley Wine Road

Slovenia's wines are seriously underrated.

With the Trnovo Forest Plateau to the north and the Karst Plateau to the south, it’s no wonder that the Vipava Valley is one of most fertile regions in Europe.

Here the fierce burja wind – which Italians know as bora and Croatians as bura – slices through the valley, clearing the air and bringing optimal growing conditions for Slovenia’s top-class wines.

Scores of wineries – plus countless more tiny family vineyards – produce seriously underrated wines, with many using Slovenia’s indigenous grapes, including the zelen and pinela white varieties.

For an introduction to the region’s wines, start at wine cooperative Vipava 1894 in the town of Vipava. Running since 1894, the cooperative brings together wines from 35